Australia Former Cairns childcare director tearfully tells family he is 'very sorry' for toddler's death on bus

08:52  23 february  2021
08:52  23 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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The former childcare director pleaded guilty in court on Monday morning. He is expected to be sentenced over the child ' s death on Tuesday. Mr Lewis was initially in court for an indictment presentation, but his barrister, Peter Feeney, asked for him to be arraigned on the charge, to which Mr Lewis entered a plea of guilty. The charge of manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life behind bars. It has been a year since the body of three-year-old Maliq Nicholas Lloyd Namok-Malamoo — known as "Meeky" — was found dead on the Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus in the Cairns

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a man wearing sunglasses and a suit and tie: Michael Glenn Lewis (right) enters the Cairns court house with his lawyer Derek Perkins. (ABC News: Kristy Sexton-McGrath) © Provided by ABC NEWS Michael Glenn Lewis (right) enters the Cairns court house with his lawyer Derek Perkins. (ABC News: Kristy Sexton-McGrath)

A childcare centre director who has pleaded guilty to manslaughter after leaving a three-year-old boy to die on a daycare centre bus has made a tearful apology to the child's family in a Far North Queensland court.

WARNING: This story contains images of Indigenous people who have died.

It has been a year since the body of Maliq Nicholas Lloyd Namok-Malamoo, known to his family as "Meeky", was found dead on the Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus in the Cairns suburb of Edmonton on February 18, 2020.

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Michael Glenn Lewis, 45, was driving the centre minibus and collected the boy from his home and brought him to the childcare centre.

Lewis failed to take the child off the bus, despite Meeky being the only child on board at the time, in what was described in court as a series of "disorganised and dysfunctional events", including the failure by Lewis to sign the child in on the bus.

In highly emotional scenes in the Supreme Court in Cairns today, Lewis turned to face the family of the toddler from the dock as they sat in the gallery directly behind him throughout the proceedings.

"I'm so sorry, poor family, I'm so sorry," Lewis said through tears.

"He was such a light — you guys were so beautiful — from the bottom of my heart I am very sorry it happened."

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The court heard Lewis was running late for a meeting with centre directors when he left Meeky alone on the bus, where cabin temperatures soared to 56 degrees Celsius.

Meeky 'was a good boy'

Crown prosecutor Nathan Crane detailed how Lewis, who did not normally drive the bus, initially forgot to pick up Meeky from his home in Mount Sheridan and the boy's mother Muriel Namok called the centre at 8:30am to raise the alarm.

He said Lewis and another childcare worker, Dionne Batrice Grills, dropped off the children already in the bus and doubled back to pick up the toddler from his home at 9:20am.

He said Meeky was placed in the second row in a childcare seat behind Lewis, who was driving the bus.

"He was a good boy with no behavioural issues, and I say that because it would often be the case that he might sleep on the bus before arriving at the Goodstart centre," Mr Crane said.

"He wasn't a child who was boisterous in that bus."

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Mr Crane told the hearing that on the day the little boy died, Meeky was "clingy".

"He didn't want to get on the bus and Mr Lewis told Ms Namok, 'Come on, we've got to go,'" Mr Crane said.

Mr Crane said at no stage was the child signed in on the bus as per centre policy, and Lewis drove back to the daycare centre at Edmonton, where Meeky had already been signed in electronically.

"It was generally noted by parents that when Lewis was conducting the pick-up or the home-run he had not signed in their children onto the bus," Mr Crane said.

"He was, in fact, asked by one of the caregivers at one stage whether they needed to sign the child in … but he replied, 'I'm the manager, it's OK.'"

Mr Crane also said the centre would sign Meeky in each day, even if he was not present, so the family would not lose their childcare subsidy, which could be impacted if a child was regularly absent.

The court heard Lewis entered the building without Meeky and returned a short time later, before driving across town to a Goodstart Early Learning Centre meeting for senior staff.

'I'm so sorry buddy'

The boy's body was only discovered at 3:13pm outside the Hambledon State School, when Lewis went to pick up several children in order to take them back to the childcare centre.

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Mr Crane read out the transcript of the triple-0 call made by Lewis, on discovering the little boy's body.

"Oh my God, this kid is dead.

"Oh my God, I'm the director of the childcare centre.

"The child was left on the bus all day.

"I've just opened up the bus and he's here, dead.

"I'm so sorry buddy.

"I'm going to jail, this is my fault.

"Oh my God. My whole life is over."

'Robbed me of my hopes and dreams'

Meeky's mother read out a victim impact statement to the court.

Wiping away tears, Ms Namok said she had lost "her only boy", a much-wanted addition to her family of girls.

"It has robbed me of my hopes and dreams of a mother-and-son relationship and the experiences — enrolling him in prep, his graduation, his first love, teaching him to drive, and his uncles teaching him to hunt and generational traditions to provide for this family," Ms Namok said.

She told the court her little boy loved his sisters and eating Weet-Bix and bananas.

"We still buy Weet-Bix, even though no-one in our house eats it," Ms Namok said.

"Meeky would sleep in my room — that feeling of sleeping beside me, that's what I miss."

The other childcare worker on the bus, Dionne Batrice Grills, was initially charged with manslaughter but those charges were dropped in January, after Magistrate Kevin Priestly found she had not had a duty of care over the child.

Justice James Henry adjourned the court until Wednesday afternoon for the sentence of Lewis.

Lewis, who had been on bail since the incident, was remanded in custody.

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